A major assumption that the founders had concerning the Electoral College was that electors would
A. Be political party leaders
B. Further the democratic goal of popular government
C. Be chosen by the state legislatures
D. Be leading citizens who could be trusted to exercise good judgment
E. Represent the average citizen when picking a president
The correct answer to this question is Option D. Many of the other options are plausible, but they are not correct.
The Framers chose to have an electoral college because they thought it would be made up of many of the best citizens. They thought that this would make sure that the president would be picked for the right reasons. They did not want the people to have a direct say in government because they feared democracy. This means that Options B and E are wrong. They did not want the presidents to be picked by party leaders because they believed that political parties were a bad thing. This means that Option A is wrong. Finally, they did not want the state legislatures to select the electors because they feared that the legislatures would then be able to control the president.
Instead, the Framers wanted an elite group of the best people to elect the president to ensure that they would make a good choice.
Prior to arriving at the eventual wording of section 1 of Article II, the Constitutional Convention specifically voted against a number of different methods for selecting the President, including
● having state legislatures choose the President,
● having governors choose the President, and
● a national popular vote.
After these (and other) methods were debated and rejected, the Constitutional Convention decided to leave the entire matter to the states.
Unable to agree on any particular method for selecting presidential electors, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method exclusively to the states in Article II, Section 1:
“Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….”
The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as "plenary" and "exclusive."
The Constitution does not prohibit any of the methods that were debated and rejected. Indeed, a majority of the states appointed their presidential electors using two of the rejected methods in the nation's first presidential election in 1789 (i.e., appointment by the legislature and by the governor and his cabinet). Presidential electors were appointed by state legislatures for almost a century.
In the nation’s first presidential election in 1789 and second election in 1792, the states employed a wide variety of methods for choosing presidential electors, including
● appointment of the state’s presidential electors by the Governor and his Council,
● appointment by both houses of the state legislature,
● popular election using special single-member presidential-elector districts,
● popular election using counties as presidential-elector districts,
● popular election using congressional districts,
● popular election using multi-member regional districts,
● combinations of popular election and legislative choice,
● appointment of the state’s presidential electors by the Governor and his Council combined with the state legislature, and
● statewide popular election.
There have been 22,991 electoral votes cast since presidential elections became competitive (in 1796), and only 17 have been cast for someone other than the candidate nominated by the elector's own political party. 1796 remains the only instance when the elector might have thought, at the time he voted, that his vote might affect the national outcome.
The electors are and will be dedicated party activists of the winning party who meet briefly in mid-December to cast their totally predictable rubberstamped votes in accordance with their pre-announced pledges.
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld state laws guaranteeing faithful voting by presidential electors (because the states have plenary power over presidential electors).